The journey back to major league baseball is far from over for Adam Greenberg.
A week ago, donning a Florida Marlins' shirt emblazoned with #10, Greenberg got his chance to register an official MLB at bat. On a one day contract Greenberg joined the team as a pinch hitter. Yet this one at bat by no means marks an end to Matt Liston’s ‘One At Bat’ campaign or Greenberg’s goal of making it back to the majors.
“What I’m going to do from hereon out is I’m going to try and get him a spring training invite from a major league club,” said Liston. “Then after that it’s up to Adam and I think he’s up to that challenge and I think he has a real shot at having a second career in the major leagues.”
Greenberg is working out, toning up and getting in shape for the 2013 baseball tryouts. He is ready, willing and able to get in uniform, get back in centerfield and play ball!
“I’m planning on playing next year,” said Greenberg, days after his historic One At Bat. “I’m hoping this brought on some opportunities for me to do that and get another shot and earn it on the field.”
“He’s in peak shape mentally and physically,” said Liston. “There’s no reason he can’t make a major league club.”
One person who is sure to be watching and following Greenberg’s career is his Guilford High School Baseball Coach Randy Tyler.
“I feel Adam has a shot to play at the major league level next year and help any team he’s on,” Tyler said via e-mail. “I think people who don’t know baseball or Adam don’t realize he is a former major leaguer and he has the skill set to play at that level. I look forward to watching him on TV next year running down balls in the outfield.”
Greenberg got his initial chance in the Major Leagues following his junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and signed on to start his professional career. His Cubs career was short-lived.
“Greenberg is the only player in Major League Baseball (MLB) history who had his career end on the very first pitch he faced,” says a change.org press release. ”Batting in the ninth inning in a nationally televised game against the Florida Marlins in 2005, Greenberg was hit in the back of the head by a 92 mile-per-hour fastball. The incident forced Greenberg out of the game immediately, causing a concussion that had lasting side effects for years.”
Watching that night was Liston, a die-hard Cubs fan and documentary filmmaker. Being a life long baseball fan he had the same dreams as Greenberg, but admits he “just wasn’t good enough to do it. “
“That event was always burned in my brain just as a baseball fan and a person who shared the same dreams he did, which is to be a major leaguer,” said Liston. “I was always cheering for all those years later (watching him) coming up through the minors.
“For me I just could relate on that level just being a human being with the same dream, how much that would hurt to have that moment taken away and so when I saw there was an opportunity to help for me it was a bit of a non brainer, I wanted to do it.”
The culmination of all his work was a magical night for Liston and Greenberg, the over 100 friends and family who sat in Marlins Park, joined by more than 27,000 fans,15,000 of them waving One At Bat.com posters, the hometown friends and family gathered at Guilford Mooring and TV watchers nationwide.
“It was unreal,” said Greenberg, thinking back to his walk to the plate. “The entire place, everyone, including The Mets guys, they were standing and everyone was cheering and it was so loud and so electric and powerful. It was an amazing, amazing moment in my life,” he said.
“The roar of the crowd was just,” said Greenberg, pausing for a moment before continuing. “It was strange because I was calm going into it and the roar of the crowd obviously excited me. It excited me, but calmed me,” he remembered.
“I knew there was no pressure and I knew the result didn’t matter,” he recalled. “It was just something that I was ready for. I felt great, I was excited to hit, I was excited to face R.A. Dickey and I was looking forward to having a successful at bat. I was mentally prepared for it. It was awesome!”
Liston, sitting with Greenberg’s immediate family, said it felt like “a dream” days after the big event.
“I think it was a dream for Adam. Adam’s family and myself,” said Liston. “Here we are on Friday and I just still can’t believe it happened. Everything was just so amazing, that it’s almost indescribable. It felt like a dream.”
Spending so much time with Greenberg, his wife, Lindsay, his parents, Mark and Wendy and his brothers and sisters makes Liston feel like a part of the family. He savored the moment, along with the family, as Greenberg walked up to the plate.
“We were all just so excited,” reminisced Liston. “We were all on our feet, jumping up and down. I think we were all nervous, but I think it was more nervous energy. We were more excited, than nervous.
“We were just so proud of him. I’ve never been so proud to see a person walk up to the plate - #10 Greenberg on his back.,” said Liston. “When he was walking up to the plate I felt like we’d already won the World Series.”
He concurred with Greenberg that this one at bat was not about hitting a homerun or proving his hitting prowess, it was about getting a second chance. “The whole week leading up to it was, ‘It’s not what happens at the up bat, it’s just walking up there,’” said Liston. “Our team that helped with this campaign, we felt just him stepping up to the plate was a win.”
Back home Tyler was watching and was thinking the exact same thoughts. “I don’t think it mattered whether he struck out or hit a home run,” said Tyler. “The big accomplishment was getting that at bat. Adam’s professionalism and class throughout the One At Bat campaign, was great.”
Swinging hard at two of R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball pitches Greenberg struck out. “He’s the best pitcher in baseball and he’s the only pitcher that throws a knuckleball,” said Greenberg. “Not only is he a knuckleballer, but he’s the best at what he does.”
Yet, in keeping with his optimistic demeanor Greenberg looked at this as a positive opportunity and walked away from the plate smiling from ear to ear.
“He beat me, but I didn’t feel overmatched,” said Greenberg. “I didn’t feel like I didn’t have a chance.
“If you’re going to do something like what I did, why not go at it and face THE best,” said Greenberg. “Because in life you never know what your going to be presented with and I’m certainly not going to back down from any challenge; so even though I’ve never hit anyone as good as him that’s the best way to go about it!”
Facing a pitcher the caliber of Dickey did not go unnoticed by baseball fans, including Tyler. “I thought the at bat Adam had was great. Unfortunately, he did have to face R.A. Dickey, the strikeout leader this year. Hitting a knuckleball is a tough thing to do.”
How tough is it? What’s it like to see a knuckleball coming at you? “Imagine…not being able to control your eyes,” said Greenberg. “Imagine seeing something that you think is suppose to be there and it doesn’t have any spin or rotation and then it literally just dances, it drops. It jolts to the right, it jolts to the left, it takes off and drops three feet sometimes. It’s really, really, it’s a sight to see.”
‘One At Bat’ will eventually be a documentary and for both Greenberg and Liston it is a story worth telling. “What was also cool for me, being a part of it, was knowing that this part of my life I’ll not only be able to keep and cherish forever but also share with a lot of other people,” said Greenberg.
“As you have seen and so many others have also seen, the overwhelming positive spin it has brought on with this story - the optimism and power of people and the power of the human spirit and working together. It’s something I’m excited to be able to share!”
The enthusiasm at Marlins Park is just one indication that there are a lot of people who are waiting to watch the outcome.
“Every time I got up from my seat it was fans coming up with handshakes and hugs,” said Liston. “Literally I couldn’t walk ten feet without being hugged by somebody, stopped by somebody. It just shows how people can relate and rally behind the story of Adam Greenberg.”